Seven million miles, or 11.2 million kilometers, is the distance that Waymo-cars haven been driving since 2009 in autonomous mode. More than 90 percent of all miles driven by autonomous test vehicles were done by Waymo’s vehicles, all other companies developing that technology did all together only a fraction of that. Waymo cars drive now every day 24,000 miles (38,400 kilometers).
In the next two years Waymo plans to launch 82,000 vehicles on the road – not for testing, but for deployment and operation. For half a year Waymo cars have been driving with passengers in the so called Early Rider-program. And that even without a driver.
The Waymo-robotaxis are driving in a large number of US cities and suburbs. It all started in Mountain View, where Google is headquartered, but soon the test drives expanded to other cities. And last week the first Waymo-cars did their first test drives in Europe.
No Waymo is giving a first insight into experiences with the Early Rider-program. Interesting are the most popular destinations the rider are going to. Right from the beginning the interest of the population in the test area Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix, was tremendous. Within 24 hours 6,000 people register, a week later it was 10,000. Now it’s 20,000 and registration is still open.
The age groups represented range from 9 to 69 years. And they do 400 rides daily. Pupils to retirees, handicapped, people without a driver license or simply people who dislike driving, all types are included. The most popular destinations are (in that order):
- Car Repair Shop
- Retail Store
- Health Salon or Spa
- Electronics Store
The feedback and analysis of rider data help Waymo better understand how to improve the technology and how they are used. On their rides the passengers do homework, read books, write emails, or simply relax.
As examples of some passenger here are some stories:
- Neha has avoided driving ever since witnessing a fatal car crash years ago. She says it’s “mind-blowing” that she can now take self-driving cars to run errands, get groceries, and commute back and forth to work.
- Barbara says she’d do more knitting on her self-driving rides if she wasn’t so busy checking out the local sights with her husband Jim. Though she’s lived in the same neighborhood for 20 years, she missed a lot while she was focused on driving — even including a nearby park she never noticed before.
- Chris, Marie, Miranda, and Ariel are a one-car family, so self-driving cars help the parents keep up with their kids’ busy lives. Their two teenagers often ride Waymo to their after-school activities.
Here are some videos of Waymo’s Early Riders.
This article has also been published in German.